“… I see your life as something artful, waiting, just waiting and ready for you to make it art.” Toni Morrison
While teaching graduate courses in Landscape Architecture I observed a puzzling phenomenon. It had to do with students transitioning from the analytical, research-oriented start of a project, to the creative, design-oriented portion of the assignment. Students are generally excited to start “being creative” and designing, but extensive research tasks must come first to inform the design solutions.
These bright, engaged graduate students were ready to start creating. However, once the design phase began a curious thing happened: the students somehow “froze”.
Going from desk to desk I found the same problem repeated: they could not think of solutions. They were creatively stuck. They had almost no ideas. After generating one or two basic, obvious solutions they would reach a wall. Frustration was typically quite high.
We discussed the difficulty of being creative. How challenging it is to “turn on” creativity, especially when deadlines are looming. We used exercises, discussions, inspirational images and other techniques to spur their creativity. Eventually ideas flowed. By the end of the assignment they had viable, inventive solutions to complex design problems. Completed projects were often impressively innovative, well beyond expectations. It was exciting to see student’s ideas expand over the course of an assignment.
But I began to wonder about the nature of Creativity. Where does it come from? Can it be enhanced? How can we support our creative energy? How do we go from being “stuck” to being inspired? What types of decisions help maintain a creative life? I wanted to help students learn skills to support a profession that requires creativity, often on demand with tight budgets and short timelines.
As a life-long working artist I was also interested in the personal implications of understanding more about the creative process. I became increasingly interested in the personal experience of living creatively, and began to interview creative individuals, talking to a wide variety of creative people in differing fields about their experience of living a creative life.
We discussed how they maintain their creative energy, and the benefits and challenges they faced along the way. I spoke with people of different ages, races, genders, creative outlets, locations and professions. They have been creative in a widely differing ways, including designing a life that supports their creative drive.
This blog will feature partial summaries from hours of interviews with these creative people. I hope you find them insightful as you develop your own creative practice.